The Australian patrol reported five Japanese killed and one probable. Coulson, though, at 19 was mortally wounded in another action a few days later. Patrolling was slow work. Because of the terrain and the danger, the maximum rate of advance was six minutes to cover yards about 90 metres. Patrolling was both physically and mentally exhausting. Contacts were frequently very close, only metres apart. They similarly set up ambushes to cover approaches to log crossings over creeks and other natural obstacles.
Rather than the patrol moving in a column, the battalion employed the technique of patrolling with three or four men in an extended line. And another one of the chaps, a rifleman, he got a burst of machine gun across his chest or something and killed him.
For less significant patrols, soldiers from the intelligence section briefed and interrogated the patrols. The battalion instilled an aggressive approach. As the adjutant instructed:. Destroy the Nips or use tactics and outmanoeuvre. Patrols returning for reasons outlined … will be immediately sent out again to attain their object.
The battalion moved on a two- or three-company front with the fourth company in reserve, usually labouring to develop infrastructure and communications. In addition to the extensive patrolling program, the infantrymen operated closely with engineers, Matilda tank crews, artillerymen operating pounder guns, and air support. Behind the front line, back-breaking work was conducted by engineers and infantrymen to develop and improve tracks and roads.
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Ever present too were the Bougainvilleans who worked as scouts, guides and labourers in support of the Australians. Occupying and developing new defensive positions was accompanied by a frenzy of simultaneous digging, cutting, and carrying. On taking a new position, soldiers and Bougainvilleans immediately began to dig weapon pits and sleeping bays, and to lay wire entanglements along the perimeter. Offices for the battalion headquarters, the signals office and equipment, as well as for stores and ammunition, were also dug underground.
Tents erected within the perimeter were kept low to blend with the scrub. Signallers, meanwhile, laid signal lines into the battalion headquarters and to each company. Reconnaissance patrols were sent out to the front and flanks, and forward listening posts were established. Unit positions and patrol bases became fortresses. The defences were continually improved. Medium and light machine-guns were sited for perimeter defence and mortar pits were prepared.
Weapon pits and sleeping bays were connected by crawl trenches, and timber was laid to provide overhead cover against enemy artillery and mortar fire. Wire entanglements were strengthened and rattles, often made from 2-pounder cartridge shells with fuses as a bell tongue, were attached to the wire to warn against Japanese infiltrating the wire.
Samarai, Australian Papua
Undergrowth was similarly cleared away from the wired perimeter, so that assaulting Japanese soldiers would have to rush or crawl across semi-open ground with little cover — thus becoming exposed targets for the entrenched Australians. Such precautions were necessary. The Australians had almost expended their ammunition before the Japanese finally withdrew, leaving behind 18 dead.
Another Japanese tactic was to infiltrate the Australian front to harass their lines of communications. Often moving at night, the Japanese laid artillery shells and mortar bombs as improvised mines beneath corduroy roads, and set booby-traps on tracks. They attacked vehicles carrying supplies, raided Australian positions, and ambushed Australian patrols. The Japanese changed and varied their tactics too, using smoke canisters as a ruse, for example, to confuse Australian or New Zealand aircraft spotting targets for the artillery.
A total of Japanese dead were found on top of the South Knob when the U. There were several small scale actions, but initially no major engagements, between U. As they began advancing south-west, the U. By early evening the two forces were engaged in a heavy exchange of fire along the Logging Trail, which lasted until darkness had fallen.
Throughout the night, small parties of Japanese troops attempted to infiltrate the American positions, cutting the wire in several places and successfully capturing several bunkers around the junction of Taylor's Creek and the Logging Trail, as well as several more further to the east. Throughout the following day, the U.
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Fighting raged into the early afternoon, by which time the Americans had recaptured several bunkers. In the evening, the Americans used indirect fire and searchlights to harass the Japanese. Their attack recommenced just before dawn the next morning, and recaptured another bunker.
As morning progressed, the U. In the meantime, minor counterattacks regained part of the line; by mid-morning the tanks joined the fighting and several more positions were retaken by the U. Having run out of ammunition and running low on fuel, the first group of tanks was withdrawn and replaced with a fresh platoon with which the attack was resumed in the mid-afternoon.
The following day, three Japanese infantry battalions fell on the U. They gained some ground around Cox's Creek, but U. A platoon of M4 Sherman tanks arrived during the afternoon. They began moving the Iwasa and Muda Units to link up with the Magata Unit, in order to launch an all-out assault aimed at reaching the airfields. Fighting was limited to patrol actions in the intervening period during which time the defending U. This proved the final element of the Japanese counterattack.
Forewarned by captured plans, the U.
A heavy American artillery barrage fell on the main Japanese assault forces as they formed up, and disrupted their advance by inflicting heavy casualties. Nevertheless, the Japanese captured a number of forward positions. This offensive halted the Japanese for good. Finally, Hyakutake called an end to the operation. As well as providing fire support for Army units, the U. Navy forces at Bougainville sought to prevent other Japanese offensives throughout the battle.
As it was believed that the Japanese would attempt to use barges to land a force inside the perimeter, the destroyers and PT boats stationed at Bougainville patrolled along the coast of Empress Augusta Bay each night. Navy Seabees also manned several of the defensive positions which had been established along beaches within the perimeter.
The next day Hill was retaken by American troops. Meanwhile, the Japanese withdrew, largely in an orderly fashion, to the positions they had occupied prior to the battle. In the following weeks, the U.
This operation sought to occupy key terrain and establish outposts and blocking positions along potential Japanese avenues of advance. Figures for Japanese casualties during the attack differ. Army's official history, which was published in , puts Japanese losses at "over 5, men killed, more than 3, wounded". Allied losses were much lighter. Army official history states that XIV Corps suffered fatalities. Army's Surgeon General in puts the total Allied casualties on Bougainville between 15 February and 21 April as 2, These included deaths and 1, men wounded.
In summing up the counterattack, U. Army official historian John Miller argues that the Japanese offensive failed due to poor planning and intelligence. The Japanese commanders underestimated the strength of the U. Miller argues further that the attack might have achieved a degree of success, at least in terms of inflicting heavy casualties on the U. This would have potentially produced a break in the U.
This did not happen, and the veteran U. Samuel Eliot Morison , the official historian of the U. Navy in World War II, reached similar conclusions. He judged that while a successful attack on the airfields would have "cut the most important link in the Allied armed chain around Rabaul", the Japanese offensive failed due to the strength of the Allied defenses and the determined resistance put up by the garrison. In his analysis Morison also highlighted the advantages the Allies gained from having air and naval superiority at Bougainville.
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